Music

UPROXX Music’s Best Albums Of 2015

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Every year, there’s some artist who wants to proclaim the album dead. Things are too different now, it’s an outdated model for our brave new world. And then, like clockwork, every year there is an unbelievable slate of great albums that drop and completely embarrass that tired opinion.

Fresh debuts, returning champions adding another banner in their building, bands and musicians who somehow top the fantastic records they’ve already managed to make; all of this and more can be found in the fantastic albums of 2015. Here are the 40 best.

40. Foo Fighters – Saint Cecila EP

I, like most people on the internet, am an unabashed Dave Grohl fanatic. He seems like one of most genuine and admirable guys in music – and he’s been involved in just about everything cool over the last 20+ years in rock music. This year saw Foo Fighters performing to massive stadium crowds all summer long, despite a pretty grave injury to their frontman, and then they dropped a surprise record on us this fall in Saint Cecelia. The EP is a collection of new and old material that came together over some margaritas and partying with the local of Austin, Texas.

Dave has dubbed this release a retrospective, stating, “We were going through decades of songs no one has ever heard, pieces left on the cutting room floor from every album.” Perhaps the biggest Standout track, “Sean,” honestly feels like it could’ve fit in just fine with either their self-titled debut or The Colour and the Shape.
-Spencer Hansen (@_andampers)

39. Jamie xx – In Colour

The adventurous and expansive sounds of In Colour manages to do something that seems nearly impossible for a lesser artist: bring the energy and inventiveness of a live DJ set in a compact version that’s with you at all times. Perhaps, more so than any other record this year, In Colour seems incredibly present upon every listen.

And even stranger than that, Jamie xx had a bona fide song of the summer come from the album in “I Know (There’s Gonna Be Good Times).” Unexpected? Sure. But not impossible from someone as talented as Jamie xx.
-Michael Depland (@mdepland)

38. Girlpool – Before the World Was Big

2015 was jam-packed with albums that could be described as “epic” in both scope and sound. Armed with just a guitar, a bass and their own voices, Girlpool made a great case for liking things small.

Before the World Was Big is no-frills rock that doesn’t let anything (not even a drummer) get in the way of their heart-on-sleeve ruminations on friendship and awe at just how much of that epic Earth the young duo have yet to see.
-Alex Galbraith

37. Gary Clark, Jr. – The Story of Sonny Boy Slim

The Story of Sonny Boy Slim is a neo-soul album that carries listeners down a winding path, nodding to Gary Clark, Jr.’s influences like Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Al Green, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan mixed in with a heavy dose of hip-hop.

The album’s title comes from a combination of nicknames that Clark picked up over the course of his career – much like his style – which began in Austin, Texas. His emergence as a blues-rock icon over the past few years has been quite the fun adventure to watch, and Slim is a fantastically colorful pit stop on that winding road.
-Sarah Ravits (@ravlove)

36. Action Bronson – Mr. Wonderful

My first thought when I heard about Bronson a few years back was that “that dude has a great name — really top notch.” And while I enjoyed the verses of his I heard here and there, I remember being flat out blown away by “Baby Blue,” his collaboration with Chance the Rapper. With that track, I knew that he was true hip-hop, and I was all in on Bronson. Comparisons to Ghostface Killah aside, Mr. Wonderful is a rock solid album by the Queens emcee and former chef.
-Ryan O’Connell (@rynofrommaine)

35. Screaming Females – Rose Mountain

It might seem counter-intuitive, but most punk vocalists aren’t known for their vocal chops. Marissa Paternoster is not your typical punk vocalist.

She has always had a leading voice that can peel the flesh off your bones, one that couldn’t even be held back by punk’s lo-fi aesthetics, but the slick production this time around allowed the rest of the band to show why they deserved to share the stage with her. The resulting punk/fantasy metal hybrid sounds like music that Frodo Baggins’ grandson would bust skulls to, but non-bookworms need not worry. Rose Mountain hit with a force that even non-nerds can dig.
-Alex Galbraith

34. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Medical experts advise you to not listen to Carrie & Lowell, Sufjan Stevens’ stunning indie-folk throwback, in one sitting. It’s too depressing. The songs may be quiet and sparse, but the emotions are heavy. Stevens is grasping with his own morality, and grief over the death of his mother.

Yet all this grief and despair (and occasionally, anger) results in some of the prettiest songs of Stevens’ career. The most autobiographical, too. He’s baring his emotionally vulnerable soul, like a scrapbook without any happy memories. Yet Carrie & Lowell isn’t oppressive. It’s therapeutic, for both singer and listener.
-Josh Kurp (@joshkurp)

33. The Mountain Goats – Beat the Champ

Even knowing John Darnielle’s reputation, I’ll admit that I thought Beat the Champ seemed too gimmicky for its own good. An album that tells the stories of the tragic stars of the territorial era of pro wrestling feels like a writing prompt gone rogue. I was wrong to doubt him.

In the unglamorous world of regional wrasslin’ circuits, Darnielle uncovered a host of kindred spirits. The album is full of beautiful portraits of Darnielle’s fellow barely known road warriors, all of whom are willing to bleed in order to connect in some small way with their audience.
– Alex Galbraith

32. The Arcs – Yours, Dreamily

A couple years ago, during perhaps the highest peak of The Black Keys’ career, Dan Auerbach decided to release a solo album. It was really good; an interesting look into what could have been if Auerbach hadn’t elected to do the two-man band thing. Consider that sneak peek to be a full panoramic view now as Auerbach has again ventured outside of the Keys, this time with some of the band’s touring musicians.

With The Arcs, Auerbach has created a wonderfully lush and full flowered wall of sound with horns, melodies, and multiple drummers. It’s as if he challenged himself to make every opposite move he would have made with The Black Keys. Well played, sir. Well played.
-Ryan O’Connell (@rynofrommaine)

31. Sports – All of Something

Neil Young has been shouting out of our stereos that “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” for more than three decades. In theory, this is what we want as music fans. No one likes to see aging stars totter on into irrelevance, no matter what the ticket sales of U2 and The Rolling Stones say.

Even knowing that, Sports’ calling it quits after only their second full-length album carried a bit of a sting. And it only grows greater after repeated listens of All of Something show that this young band was really, really good.
-Alex Galbraith

30. Beach House – Depression Cherry

A shimmering and cinematic follow-up to 2012’s Bloom, Depression Cherry demonstrates the duo’s evolution by way of simplification. With the ethereal vocals of Victoria Legrand and the multi-instrumental talent of Alex Scally, Depression Cherry is a surreal, but calming sonic journey and well-earned welcome back.
-Sarah Ravits (@ravlove)

29. Hop Along – Painted Shut

Talking about Hop Along without mentioning The Voice is like writing Michael Jackson’s Wikipedia page without referencing the Moonwalk. Or Steven Spielberg’s without Jurassic Park. It’s that commanding. Not that the rest of the punchy guitar-rock band are slouches. They’re front-seat passengers, but Frances Quinlan’s serenely hoarse voice is behind the wheel.

Every word is sung, snarled, and howled with a purpose. The lyrics on Painted Shut are personal (“And when I’m old I’ll only see people from my past/ And they all will be happy to see me”), but The Voice is huge.
-Josh Kurp (@joshkurp)

28. Miguel – Wildheart

How do you follow up an album like The Kaleidoscope Dream, which houses possibly the best soul song of the past decade in “Adore?” (Honestly, try to name a better one, you’re wrong.) Miguel decided to answer that challenged by going inward even deeper and revealing more of himself on Wildheart. While previous efforts sought to explore his sexual prowess and passion, here there are moments of flashes that reveal who Miguel really is: lustful, scarred, thoughtful, human. Oh, and don’t worry, it’s still very sexy.
-Michael Depland (@mdepland)

27. Wilco – Star Wars

The ninth LP from Chicago mainstays Wilco proves that the most satisfying gifts are often unexpected. The surprise 11-song album from the prolific Americana icons was, in the words of frontman Jeff Tweedy, “a jolt of joy.” I couldn’t agree more.

Consistent with their repertoire, some of the tunes on it, such as “Random Name Generator,” are energizing, while “Magnetized” presents a peaceful lullaby. Star Wars as a whole blends seamlessly with the band’s long-established hits, welcoming newer fans and pleasing the originals.
-Sarah Ravits (@ravlove)

26. Beach Slang – The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us

Every year, there’s one really good band with a really good album that makes you want to call up your best friends and tell them to meet you at your buddy Ryan’s garage, because a shout-to-the-heavens power-punk band with sh*tty, blown-out speakers is playing, and oh yeah, don’t forget the cold beer. This year, that band is Beach Slang, and that album is The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us, with its fist pumps and earnest, Replacements-influenced choruses. Ten tracks crash by in a breathless 27 minutes. By the time it’s over, you’re left shouting for more.
-Josh Kurp (@joshkurp)

25. Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

British singer/songwriter Florence Welch tells audiences that the inspiration for the title of the group’s latest album comes from being in the United States and looking up at the sky. But I could just as easily speculate that this charismatic, heartfelt and contemplative album, with a healthy dose of angsty pop – as heard in “Ship to Wreck” – reflects the way that Florence has shaped her own world and drawn us in on this impactful, profound record.
-Sarah Ravits (@ravlove)

24. Frank Turner – Positive Songs for Negative People

This is a record that’ll play straight through several times over before you’ve realized it ever even ended and began again. Frank gets better (and rightfully a little more popular) with each release added to his catalog, though he has a tongue-in-cheek lyric about feeling like his sound hasn’t changed too much over the years on “Get Better,” my favorite song on the album: “I’ve got no new tricks, yeah, I’m up on bricks.”

With roots in the punk scene, he’s plenty comfortable playing fast and sing-along-friendly tracks, but also knows how to write some absolutely gut-wrenching numbers like “Song for Josh,” which was written to honor a friend who passed last year.
-Spencer Hansen (@_andampers)

23. Future & Drake – What a Time to Be Alive

Today’s rap music is pretty much defined by only a few artists. Without question, two of the artists on that short list are Future and Drake. The rappers from Atlanta and Toronto, respectively, came together to create an album that is a rap phenomenon preceded only by Jay Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne. What a Time to Be Alive arrived at No. 1 and created a buzz on social media unlike any other album this year (well, if you’re not named Adele).

Featuring production from trap music maestro Metro Boomin, as well as frequent Drake collaborators like Boi-1da and Noah “40” Shebib, the album is the prime example of music that sits in both artists’ wheelhouse. Tracks like “Jumpman,” “Big Rings,” and “Digital Dash” are pure uncut excellence in trap rap, while “Diamonds Dancing” and “Plastic Bag” show off the extraordinary ability of both men to make music for strip clubs. What a Time to Be Alive cemented both Drake and Future’s spots at the top of the game for 2015.
-Spencer Linstead, (@spencerlinstead)

22. Leon Bridges – Coming Home

Leon Bridges’ debut album was introduced to me by a friend only a few months ago — just in time to be disappointed that his concert had sold out in our neighborhood. While Coming Home feels like it should’ve come out at least 40 to 50 years ago, where I could definitely see him palling around perfectly with some old-school rhythm and blues singers, it’s definitely a strong and contemporary debut from the year 2015. This album’s universal appeal, which seems so rare to find now, feels perfect for lazy days spent around your home, or slow-dancing in the kitchen with your significant other.
-Spencer Hansen (@_andampers)

21. Major Lazer – Peace Is The Mission

When Major Lazer makes music, you can count on two things: The music will have a tropical, Caribbean vibe and it will make you shake your ass. The group’s third studio album, Peace Is the Mission, is no exception. The album features collaborations from Travi$ Scott, Ariana Grande, Ellie Goulding, Pusha T and 2 Chainz to name a few.

It would also be foolish to ignore that it features the smash hit, “Lean On,” featuring DJ Snake and MØ, which became the most streamed song in Spotify’s history. Blending some of pop and urban radio’s biggest stars with Major Lazer’s tropical sensibilities, was the magic formula that Diplo and company has finally managed to perfect after so many years. For those who want to get up and dance? You won’t be disappointed.
-Spencer Linstead (@spencerlinstead)

20. Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material

You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl. On her third album, Kacey Musgraves is both an industry-busting sh*t kicker in cowgirl boots and deeply respectful of her small-town roots, having grown up in Golden, Texas (population: under 200). The songs are big city confident, but her tales, about biscuits, dime stores, and grocery store beer, are homespun. And, unlike most country songs, don’t smack of pandering. There’s nothing manufactured about Kacey; she’s as authentic as they come.
-Josh Kurp (@joshkurp)

19. Bully – Feels Like

This was an excellent year for gritty rock bands fronted by young women making their debuts. Bully’s taut (28 minutes and no less), high energy album, Feels Like, garnered as much attention as any of the year’s new groups, and with good reason. You only need to listen to Alicia Bognanno’s coarse, yet beautiful vocals on the chorus of “Trying” to know this is a band worth your time.

Through guttural yawps and with an unyielding pace, Feels Like demands your attention, and, more importantly, earns your enthusiasm. This is a band to keep an eye on. Big things are ahead.
-Chris Morgan (@chrisxmorgan)

18. Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats – Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats

Like you, the first I heard of these dudes was when I heard their song “S.O.B.,” causing reactions of surprise, enjoyment, amazement, bewilderment, and then more enjoyment. Why? Because it’s a flippin’ fun song, of course! But what about the rest of the album and I had to wonder, is this just some novelty monkey business? Short answer is no. Long answer is also no. The album is the kind of dive bar soul that makes you want to drink a lot, dance a lot, sing a lot, really rip that dance floor apart. Rough around the edges, it’s neo-soul that forgot to shave and reeks of whiskey.
-Ryan O’Connell (@rynofrommaine)

17. Grimes – Art Angels

Musician, producer, video director, and genius Claire Boucher, now a household name as Grimes, says some of her eclectic influences include Mariah Carey, K-Pop, 1960s science-fiction and Game of Thrones. All of these inspirations and more are heard and felt on Art Angels, a burst of much-needed energy that emerged after the introspective Boucher contemplated her next moves after 2012’s Visions and a few singles that followed.

The musical shifts of Art Angels go from playful to defiant (and sometimes, both) and reflect her self-confidence and a willingness to experiment with her sound that often pays off with heavy rewards.
-Sarah Ravits (@ravlove)

16. A$AP Rocky – At.Long.Last.A$AP

A$AP saw a lot of success with his 2013 debut studio album, Long.Live.A$AP, but there was no doubt that he compromised his style a bit to jump start his career on the radio At.Long.Last.A$AP is a return to the Houston-New York fusion that separates himself from any artist on the East Coast.

How authentic is this record? A$AP enlisted the help of Joe Fox — a stray guitarist Rocky met on the street — for the bulk of the album. Who does that? Clearly someone who is striving for something fresh. And that’s the key here: Above all, ALLA is an evolution in A$AP’s tastemaking sound and lyrical range that vaults him to the top of the new era of hip hop.
-Ryan Alfieri (@ryan_alfieri)

15. Justin Bieber – Purpose

Justin Bieber started crafting an R&B influenced sound during his Music Monday series in 2013, which came to eventually be the critically-overlooked Journals. No one noticed, of course, because of the 21-year-old’s pattern of worst behavior, but he turned things around with a widely publicized redemption tour. All of that was leading towards his return into the public’s good graces with Purpose.

The lead singles from Purpose, “What Do You Mean?” and “Sorry” (as well as the Diplo and Skrillex summertime smash, “Where Are Ü Now”), all featured a light tropical house influence and brought his comeback story full circle, complete with a new sound. While the “apology album” itself doesn’t include much apologizing at all, it does feature great music — which is far more than most people would’ve expected from him.
-Eddie Fu (@eddiefu)

14. Dr. Dre – Compton

For more than a decade, Dr. Dre has had to deal with immense pressure and expectations surrounding his third studio album, Detox, so he decided to cook up the perfect plan: Cancel it altogether and release an album that makes them shut up about Detox.

Dre released Compton, his first album since 1999, alongside the release of the N.W.A. biopic “Straight Outta Compton,” and it’s everything we’ve been waiting for. The 16-song soundtrack includes Kendrick Lamar, Xzibit, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and Eminem — it’s certainly loaded, to say the least. Standout tracks include the infectious Kendrick Lamar track “Genocide,” “For the Love of Money,” and album-closer “Talking to My Diary,” which finds Dre reminiscing on the past while remaining humble for where it got him today.
-James Sullivan (@sully1289)

13. Adele – 25

I didn’t think she’d be able to keep doing this without serious diminishing returns. Hey, breakups suck, we get it, right? Except, Adele just keeps writing songs that resonate in an indescribable way. There’s something about a song like “Hello,” where she has this ability to describe *exactly* what heartbreak feels like, in a way that reminds you of every disappointment you’ve ever had in your life.

I can’t help but wonder that now that Adele is married with a kid, and even richer than she was already, if she’ll run out of inspiration for her next album. But for now, she’s on quite a winning streak.
-John Hugar (john_hugar)

12. The Weeknd – Beauty Behind the Madness

After the success of his single, “Earned It,” The Weeknd continued his breakout 2015 by completely owning the charts for nearly the entire year with his album, Beauty Behind the Madness. Both “The Hills” and “Can’t Feel My Face,” all spent multiple weeks atop the charts and banging out of cars all summer.

On Beauty Behind the Madness, The Weeknd takes Bad-era Michael Jackson melodies and tells tales of debauchery-filled nights with copious amounts of drugs, sex, and money spent. Instead of rejecting him as just another MJ impostor, the world moonwalked along with him turning him from a mysterious Canadian R&B artist to an international pop superstar.
-Spencer Linstead (@spencerlinstead)

11. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

What happens when a pathologically cynical bastard falls in love? Well, if that jaded sack happens to be Father John Misty, you get I Love You, Honeybear — one of the prettiest albums of 2015 (that just so happens to be casting a wicked side-eye at all this glittering, lovey-dovey bullsh*t).

The tension between Misty’s assholery and the unrelenting optimism of falling in love is summed up in the reluctantly soaring chorus of the title track where Josh Tillman lays it out plain: “All is doomed and nothing will be spared/ But I love you, Honeybear.”
-Alex Galbraith

10. Tame Impala – Currents

Kevin Parker wrote, recorded and produced the freshly Grammy-nominated Currents entirely on his own, like a mad scientist who was locked away in a lab and lost track of time. The Australian frontman’s determination to find some sort of musical cure or scientific breakthrough result in an imaginative, reflective and psychedelic listener experience: a long strange trip worth taking with him every step of the way.
-Sarah Ravits (@ravlove)

9. CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye

The sophomore album slump can be very real, but CHVRCHES, who have been defying conventions since breaking out in 2013, care not for your jinxes. On Every Open Eye, the Glasgow synth-pop trio don’t replicate their debut, The Bones of What You Believe, so much as they use it as a blueprint, but with thicker beats, catchier hooks, and bigger choruses. Not to mention twirling and tears. Every Open Eye is one of the year’s best dance albums… that you can totally cry to. It must be the Scot in them.

8. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

Alabama Shakes aren’t a one-trick pony; Sound & Color proves that. Count me as someone incredibly interested to see what Alabama Shakes would do when recording a follow-up to Boys & Girls, and they somehow still exceeded all my expectations.

The easy way out would be to come out with more of the same; not the case with Brittany Howard and company. Sound & Color is forward-thinking, more textured, and mature than Boys & Girls. It’s an album of confidence and command, but also one of promise.
-Ryan O’Connell (@rynofrommaine)

7. Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy

When a rock band decides to write a rock opera, it’s certainly going to raise some eyebrows, but luckily it turned out for the best on The Most Lamentable Tragedy. Titus Andronicus’ fourth album kicks your ass from the very start with “No Future IV: No Future Triumphant” and brings you on a wild roller coaster of emotions through frontman Patrick Stickles’ imaginative and semi-autobiographical storytelling. The five-act punk rock opera follows the main character, “Our Hero,” through multiple life experiences and personal struggles that many listeners are able to relate to. Stickles and co. outdid themselves in the best way possible with this one.
-James Sullivan (@sully1289)

6. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

I’ve heard her compared to both Lena Dunham and Jerry Seinfeld, and while I understand both (“Elevator Operator” could easily be turned into a Seinfeld bit), I’m not sure it does her justice — her lyrics are clever in a really unprecedented way. At times, listening to Courtney Barnett lyrics is like watching Steph Curry play basketball: There are moments when you’re like “oh, I didn’t know you could do that.”

The casual brilliance of a line like “since we got that percolator/ never made a latte greater” can’t be fully explained, but I’ll never hear that lyric without smiling. Barnett is fiendishly clever, and her career will be amazing to watch.

And she can absolutely shred on guitar.
-John Hugar (@john_hugar)

5. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love

After a decade in the wilderness (classic pun on their 2005 album The Woods, of course), Sleater-Kinney returned this year with No Cities to Love, and it was like they were never gone. Well, actually, it’s more like their time off had rejuvenated the trio, as now they rock as hard and loud as ever. The album is as good as any other outing for iconic band. Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein trading off vocals and shredding guitars, Janet Weiss’ propulsive drumming: it’s all there. This is an all killer, no filler album that refuses to pull any punches. In fact, it reaches back to make sure it gets a little extra oomph on that haymaker.
-Chris Morgan (@chrisxmorgan)

4. Drake – If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late

Who else can drop an unannounced album with a ransom note cover and outsell everyone in rap? If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late is Drake’s submersion into the woozier, darker end of hip-hop, toning down with melodic vocals to be replaced with braggadocios, in-your-face bars.

Featuring a more mature, no-nonsense Drake, IYRTITL addresses his detractors on “Energy,” delivers an undeniable anthem on “Know Yourself,” and captures his signature mood-inducing sounds on “Wednesday Night Interlude.” This prelude to the highly-anticipated Views from the 6 marks the separation between a young, lustful Champagne Papi and the almighty 6 God.
-Ryan Alfieri (@ryan_alfieri)

3. Carly Rae Jepsen – E-MO-TION

It’s unfortunate E-MO-TION had a rough start getting out of the gate, commercially. Perhaps it was because the “Call Me Maybe” sound-a-like, “I Really Like You,” was released as the first single, or maybe it was the puzzling gap between its original release in Japan, followed by the US and worldwide drop two months later.

Either way, too many people missed out on a near-perfect collection of ’80s-inspired pop songs. Jepsen called upon an A-list of songwriters and producers, including Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend, Peter Svensson of the Cardigans, and Greg Kurstin, as well as Ariel Rechtshaid and Dev Hynes to craft an album about having fun with a new love. You truly feel that when listening to this album; it’s impossibly present.
-Eddie Fu (@eddiefu)

2. Vince Staples – Summertime ’06

Summertime ’06, is a dark tale about Staples’ internal struggle, juxtaposing his former life as a gang member from Long Beach and the desires stemming from his new-found fame and fortune. Under the executive production of hip-hop super-producer, No I.D., Vince rhymes effortlessly over minimalistic-albeit-booming beats about the power of fear, the effect it has on people, and the journey of how he came to understand, appreciate and, eventually, fight against that power.

The lead single, “Senorita,” gives Staples a Future sample and a trap music beat which Staples uses to flow smoothly about what should be important to people, and pondering what his name will mean to the world when his proverbial curtains close. As Summertime ’06 shows, his name is worthy of knowing.
-Spencer Linstead (@spencerlinstead)

1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

It’s true: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly isn’t a controversial pick for the top spot. If the point of picking an “Album of the Year” is singling out work that best defined the year that was, no one release is more worthy of the crown than TPAB. Why are we kidding ourselves, it has to be this album.

But just because it is a safe choice for the year’s best doesn’t mean To Pimp a Butterfly is “safe.” Kendrick followed up his accessible instant-classic of small-scale hip-hop storytelling in Good Kid, M.A.A.D City with an album that nearly pulls Kendrick apart in its rush to head in every direction at once. Free jazz, spoken word and interviews with long-dead rap titans shares space with Isley Brothers samples and Snoop Dogg guest verses. To cop a phrase from another popular 2015 release, Butterfly is madness, but there’s an awful lot of beauty behind it.

And that’s not even diving into the prescient politics at play here. Lamar takes big swipes at systemic oppression, hypocrisy, and the many devils who surround us on this album, but the most-charged parts of the album are decidedly smaller. It’s fitting in a year where a phrase as self-evident as “Black Lives Matter” became a rallying cry that Kendrick’s choruses of “I love myself!” and “We gon’ be alright” seemed like a raised middle finger wagged in the face of American power structures.

So no, we didn’t need to court controversy and put something else in the top spot. To Pimp a Butterfly is contrarian enough on its own.
-Alex Galbraith

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